Helping skilled migrants succeed in New Zealand

Karen Commons | July 7, 2016

When a migrant comes to New Zealand, they might be unsure of the best way to communicate in their new environment.

To help, we’ve extended our training for migrants to include oral communication. After a recent workshop and a coaching session, one of our clients emailed to say:

‘…it was something that helped me to reveal my personality … and enjoy New Zealand.’

Migrants need help to understand the rules of the new game

Many aspects of the workplace that we take for granted may be unfamiliar to migrants. Take meetings, for example. Migrants might have questions like:

Then, once they’re in the meeting, they might wonder:

These questions demonstrate that migrants often need to learn new rules for a once-familiar game.

Unless someone helps migrants understand and play with confidence, they might not perform well. And if they don’t perform well, they might not feel satisfied in their jobs. And — worst-case scenario — we just might lose some excellent talent.

Image, globe with Africa facing the camera.

Depending on where they come from, new migrants might be used to a very different workplace culture. Image by Atem Bali / Unsplash licence

Experiential learning makes our training work

Recently, we gave oral communication training to new migrants in a large accountancy firm. These migrants were already great communicators, and most of them had worked for the firm in their home countries. But the firm wanted to help them succeed and feel satisfied in their new environment — they knew that the rules might be subtly different here!

We filmed some experienced local staff from the firm in various scenarios, such as meetings and performance reviews. We used these videos during the workshop to help participants identify appropriate language, body language, and communication styles for the firm.

But participants didn’t just talk about what they observed. They practised! In small groups they role-played what they’d watched on video — while others observed. After each role-play, the observers gave feedback on what was working and which areas they could improve on. After the workshop, one participant commented on this feedback method:

‘I appreciated other participants’ comments on my existing ways of communicating and their perception of me.’

Participants enjoy comparing business cultures

After working through various scenarios, we invited participants to distinguish any broad differences in cultural behaviours. Everyone discussed the underlying values that might lead to these differences. One participant commented on this discussion afterwards:

‘…the course helped me understand New Zealand culture and its effects on how to communicate effectively.’

Participants identified areas where their cultural behaviours differed the most from the behaviours they observed in the New Zealand firm. Identifying these areas meant they knew what to focus on to be successful in their new work environment. When asked later if the workshop had met expectations, one participant wrote:

‘…exceeded my expectations. It was interesting to think and talk about the differences in cultures.’

Coaching targets individual needs

After the workshop, each participant had individual coaching sessions to reflect on how things were going. They looked at the videos more closely, clarified specific gaps, and planned how to practise the target behaviours.

The results of all this training were positive. When one of the participants finally decided to returned to his home country, he emailed us:

‘Thanks to your guidance, I managed to enjoy New Zealand and the work to the extent that I seriously doubt about our decision to leave … thank you for everything and please keep going, people will need you!’

We think New Zealand needs talented migrants too — and we’re keen to help them stay here.

Find out about our coaching for non-native speakers of English and the Business Writing for International Professionals workshop.

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.